NCSL Labor and Economic Development Committee - Policy

The Federal Role in Career and Technical Education

Joint with Labor and Economic Development Committee and Education Committee

Expires August 2013


The Carl D. Perkins Vocational & Technical Education Act of 2006 provides appropriations to support a framework to better prepare secondary and post-secondary students for further education and employment by developing their academic and technical skills. Perkins funds are provided to the states, which in turn allocate funds by federal formula to secondary and post secondary institutions. States currently receive two grants - Basic State Grants and Tech Prep. States must distribute at least 85% of the Basic funds to local programs using either the needs-based formula included in the law or an alternative formula that targets resources to disadvantaged schools and students. States may reserve up to ten percent for leadership activities and five percent for administrative activities.

While federal funds represent about 5% of aggregate expenditures for career and technical education, they are critical to maintaining service levels as states increasingly make use of this education platform. However, as with the federal contribution to K-12 education, it is vitally important that the federal role in career and technical education remain positive and supportive of state policies and not outgrow the size of the investment by burdening the system in a labyrinth of disjointed reporting requirements and accountability measures.

Research demonstrates that investment in CTE funding increases overall employment outcomes and earnings of participants. Career and Technical Education has also been shown to mitigate dropout and absentee rates by providing an alternative to the traditional four year baccalaureate degree. Furthermore, Career and Technical Education is increasingly an avenue for working adults in transition between jobs to return to school and get retrained for a new career.

The federal government should provide additional funding and support the authority of states for flexibility to allocate some funds through a competitive grant administered by the state in pursuit and support of innovative, high quality and effective programs.

These funding decisions can best be handled at the state level rather than by individual schools and/or districts.
States should have the discretion to fund schools based on performance and effectiveness, not on prior funding.
States should continue to have the authority to determine the split between secondary and post secondary CTE programs.
States sovereignty regarding teacher qualifications should be respected.
The existing funding formula for the allocation of federal funds to the state should be maintained.
The proper and legal recipient of federal appropriations should be the “state”, not an individual nor an agency of the state.
Furthermore, the federal government should also be mindful not to incorporate measures into reauthorization that interfere with states’ flexibility to respond to local and regional education and training needs - especially in light of the important role CTE currently plays in our economic recovery and in securing future prosperity.

Maintenance of Effort

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) both contain such a requirement for states to comply with in order to be eligible for federal CTE. Federal maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements are put in place to prevent states from supplanting state funding with federal dollars. However, in challenging fiscal times MOEs punish states for recent enhancements and reward those that have not made career and technical education a funding priority. The most recent economic downturn has had a devastating impact on state budgets including career and technical education. The perverse consequence of well-intentioned MOE requirements is to withhold vital federal funding when it is needed most. The impact on state programs is devastating and counterproductive as the nation builds towards economic recovery. The National Conference of State Legislatures strongly urges the U.S. Department of Education to provide flexibility for states and where appropriate waive the Perkins and ARRA maintenance of effort requirements as state budgets recover from the recession.

The National Conference of State Legislatures stands prepared to work with the Administration and Congress to ensure that Career and Technical Education programs continue to serve as a dynamic and energizing force in the American economy.

Labor and Economic Development Committee

Education Committee